“Our initial reaction to the budget is just complete disappointment. We are sad for our students and the lack of support that is coming through the budget,” says Samantha Becotte president of the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation.
According to the finance minister, the recently released budget will see an increase to the education allocation up to $3.1 billion. This the Saskatchewan government indicates will be spent on schools, early learning, child care, and libraries.
From those funds, just over $2 billion will go to Saskatchewan’s 27 school divisions including Lloydminster. That represents about a 2.5 per cent increase over previous spending.
Becotte says given inflation, their calculations warrant a five per cent increase just to maintain the status quo as overall the teachers federation has pointed to a loss of some $400 million in funding from education over the last decade.
The teachers federation leader sees the challenges facing schools continuing with larger class sizes, fewer teachers, education assistants and supports needed to help students. Its numbers show that while the student population has increased by about four per cent, the number of full time teachers has declined by just under three per cent, over the last five to six years.
“The underlying challenge is there. We don’t have enough supports to meet the needs of the students that we have in front of us – and we need our government to change their course and start making a real investment in education and stop their messaging of record spending. In the end, our kids are the best investment we can make. They are the future of this province,” says Becotte.
Lloydminster Public School Division director of education, Jason Neville expressed the hope that the budget “will provide the necessary funds that will allow the LPSD to continue to offer the strong programming it currently offers.”
Becotte in reflecting on the Lloydminster situation again is recognizing the increased spending, but points to the corrosive effect of inflation.
“Unfortunately Lloydminster Public and Lloydminster Catholic school boards and division administration are going to be tasked with some of those difficult decisions. From the STF perspective, we would be encouraging divisions to try to reduce the cuts from classrooms from impacting students. There have been too many cuts over the last decade – every year except for one, education has seen a reduction of support.”
Becotte acknowledges that Lloydminster gets funding from both Saskatchewan and Alberta and the Alberta dollars have seen about a five per cent uptick. However she says it’s not enough given the cuts since 2013 and the impact of inflation.
Some $298.2 million is coming from the federal government to go to early childhood education which comes in at just over $382 million.
Becotte is encouraging parents and businesses to help in advocating for students as the federation is planning a lunch-time rally on April 29 at the legislature in Regina.